Interview with Alfie Jianbin Zhao -the Co-founder and CTO at GL.iNet

Shauli Zacks Shauli Zacks

Alfie Jianbin Zhao, the Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of GL.iNet, shares insights into the journey of establishing GL.iNet in an interview with SafetyDetectives. Zhao’s motivation stemmed from encountering Wi-Fi issues at home, leading him to explore OpenWrt firmware for router troubleshooting. Recognizing the potential of OpenWrt to enhance router capabilities and address privacy concerns, GL.iNet was born. The routers offer unique features, including VPN, DNS encryption, and Firewall, with a focus on user-friendly setups for optimal security and privacy. Zhao emphasizes the significance of open-source firmware in routers, highlighting transparency and user control. GL.iNet’s commitment to user autonomy extends to advanced encryption technologies, regular security updates, and the importance of VPNs in today’s digital environment, serving as a crucial defense against online threats.

Hi Alfie, Thank you for taking some time for me today. Can you talk about your journey and motivated you to co-found GL-iNet?

I was having some Wi-Fi issues at home one day around a decade ago. I needed to upgrade the router’s firmware but there were other issues that came with it. When trying to troubleshoot, I stumbled across a forum dedicated to OpenWrt and followed some members’ advice on using the OpenWrt firmware to troubleshoot the issue. I started looking into OpenWrt and realized it could do so much more than regular firmwares that had limitations.

Also, at the time, web browsers were constantly bombarded with ads from websites you had visited and our internet service providers. I found out OpenWrt could help to block ads as well. We started building our firmware based on OpenWrt, and after seeing some success, branched into hardware. This is how GL.iNet all started.

What unique features do GL.iNet routers offer in terms of enhancing user privacy and security?

In terms of user privacy and security, we offer three key features: VPN, DNS encryption, and Firewall. At the same time, we make these features extremely easy to use, ensuring the best user experience possible.

For example, it’s important to use VPN and DNS to help you stay more anonymous online, and we made it easy to set up and use these features. Moreover, the Firewall feature comes with pre-configured settings that are designed to offer optimal security, keeping our customers safe from probing and unauthorized access.

Could you discuss the significance of having open-source firmware, such as OpenWRT, in routers for users concerned about customization and security?

Open source instills trust in our customers as it fosters transparency, collaboration, and accountability. While not all our applications are open-source, we are committed to releasing the source code to give our customers full control over their routers and the ability to examine the data transfer process.

For more advanced users, we give them the ability to modify the firmware through pre-configurations to give them an enhanced user experience. Also, we offer the flexibility for users to uninstall all our applications and initiate a fresh installation directly from the source code, giving them complete autonomy and control over their setup.

Can you elaborate on the role of routers in creating a secure and private home network environment?

Your router is what makes or breaks your home security. Unfortunately, routers do not receive enough attention in a household. They’re often operating with the default security settings and aren’t receiving regular firmware updates. In some countries, routers are managed by internet service providers, who do not provide adequate customer service to keep people’s home security in check.

At GL.iNet, we advocate for home security. To that end, we offer a range of privacy and security features in our routers to keep our users protected. To optimize their router security, we keep them informed by sending regular security notifications and releasing software updates.

We believe it’s crucial for any internet users to actively run through setup processes on their own rather than relying on a third party like an internet service provider to do things for them.

How does GL.iNet approach the integration of advanced encryption technologies to safeguard user data?

We ensure to use cutting-edge encryption and recognized technologies like OpenVPN and WireGuard, while doing away with PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec, which offered fewer privacy and security benefits. Meanwhile, we are committed to keeping these protocols up-to-date, release regular security updates, and default to more secure ciphers to give our customers more protection.

Can you discuss the importance of VPNs in the context of today’s digital environment?

VPN is particularly important for remote work, especially when you’re connecting to the internet using a public Wi-Fi network. It serves as the backbone for SD-WAN solutions, underlining its critical role in facilitating secure and efficient network communication.

But these days, a VPN is crucial for anyone who has access to the internet. In the online world, you’re like a soldier on a battlefield, and your enemy would be malicious attackers, trackers, and phishing scammers—you name it. A VPN is your first line of defense to shield you from harm.

About the Author

About the Author

Shauli Zacks is a tech enthusiast who has reviewed and compared hundreds of programs in multiple niches, including cybersecurity, office and productivity tools, and parental control apps. He enjoys researching and understanding what features are important to the people using these tools.